Too much flair for the Irish this time
By Roger Childs
After the Irish victory in Chicago a fortnight ago, the second test was eagerly awaited, and attracted a sell-out crowd at Dublin’s Aviva Stadium.
It was a passionate and physical performance from both teams, but the All Blacks ultimately showed their superiority in scoring three excellent back tries to none, to win comfortably 21-9.
The Irish should have done better, as the visitors were down to 14 men for 20 minutes, and in the second half they had 70% of the possession. However the All Black tackling was resolute and the Irish made some poor decisions from attacking positions.
Not answering Ireland’s call
Whereas the Irish were audacious in Chicago and backed themselves to win lineouts close to the line and score tries, in Dublin they were too conservative.
In the first half with a scrum feed 20 metres out from the posts and the All Blacks down to six backs, they opted to pick up a 3 point penalty, instead of putting down a scrum with the chance of getting a converted try.
Then in the second spell in the All Black half, they again went for 3 points instead of a lineout close to the All Black line. When Joe Moody was off the field in Chicago for ten minutes, the Irish scored two converted tries.
Half back Connor Murray who was the star at the Soldier Field a fortnight ago, was shaded by Aaron Smith and TJ Perenara. Too often he tried to milk penalties by delaying getting the ball out. The outside backs would have been better served with quick delivery, which was the approach of the All Black halves.
Too predictable on attack
The Irish also became rather predictable, and too often took the ball up and tried to barge through the virtually impregnable All Black defensive wall. There were a few Irish breaks, but, unlike the All Blacks, there was not enough support for the ball carrier.
In the loose the Irish forwards did have the better of the breakdowns and secured more turnovers. However this hard won possession was sometimes wasted on barging and unwise kicking. They did tackle well, but were sometimes caught out by the All Blacks creating space for the extra man on attack.
In the early scrums they probably had the better of the exchanges but in a tactical error coach Joe Schmidt did not replace his props until the last quarter, whereas All Black reserves Charlie Faumuina and Wyatt Crockett came on early in the second half and the scrum was immediately more secure.
Player of the Year is deservedly Man of the Match
During the week controversial journalist Mark Reason argued that Beauden Barrett should be replaced in the run-on team by Aaron Crudden. Reason based his thesis on Crudden’s superior tactical and goal kicking skills and his better passing. The Manawatu player had an impressive game in Rome, but the Italians are not in the same class as the Irish.
As it turned out Barrett had a brilliant game:
~ scoring a superb try with a scything run from 40 metres out
~ kicking all three conversions
~ passing skilfully and kicking astutely
~ making a number of breaks and tackling superbly.
One excellent ball-and-all tackle in the first half prevented what looked like a certain Irish try.
Making a difference
Having Sam Whitelock and Brodie Retallick back in the locking positions made a big difference. They were impressive in the lineout where they put real pressure on the Irish throws. Retallick was his usual impressive self running with ball in hand and Whitelock was excellent on defence.
Kieran Read lead from the front and was impressive in having eight takes in the lineout. Aardie Savea came on earlier than expected when Sam Cane was injured and had a quality game vigorously contesting for the ball in rucks, tackling hard and make some good half-breaks.
Recent father, Dane Coles, was his usual lively self, and Franks and Moody toiled in the tight and tackled well.
Backs feed effectively off the scraps
There one or two wild passes in the backs, but generally when they had the ball, the All Blacks had more penetration than the Irish and all three tries were scored by the backs.
Fekitoa was sent off for a high tackle in the second half and once kicked the ball out on the full, however he is returning to the sort of form that saw him win All Back selection two years ago. He was on hand to score two of the three tries, one in the fourth minute with a superb side-step.
TJ Perenara made a great impact when he replaced Smith, and is maturing into one of the best half backs in the world. He got the ball out quickly and was a key link in Fekitoa’s second try.
Mixed day for the referee
Jaco Peyper pinged the All Blacks many times for off-sides and high tackles, but missed at least two Irish high shots including when Barrett scored his first try. Why he sent Aaron Smith off remains a mystery, as the half back came through on the Irish side of a ruck when the ball was clearly out and kicked it through. He got ten minutes in the bin for his troubles.
At times the referee was guilty of focusing on All Back errors. Irish half back Murray seemed to get the rub of the green on the day and once when told to use the ball in the back of a ruck greatly exceeded the statutory five seconds. Also a deliberate knock down by Jared Payne when a try to Dagg was on, went unpunished.
It was a hard-fought match, however the All Blacks were tactically superior and made the best of the limited possession they had. Now it’s on to Paris where the French will want to improve on last year’s disastrous encounter with the All Blacks in the World Cup quarter final.
However, for the All Blacks, discipline was a problem in Dublin and needs to improve in the final test of the year.